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Toronto's Mad Ones talk guitar amps, bass players, and NBA Jam

Posted by Greg / December 11, 2013

Mad OnesToronto's Mad Ones are not your average guitar/drums duo. They have no schtick going on like The White Stripes and hit way harder than Japandroids. Instead, Phil Wilson (drums) and Andrew DeVillers (vocals, guitar) user their instrumentation and best-buds dynamic to throw down pop-meets-hardcore riffs that recall the small, sweaty basement shows of punk past. They're also damn loud: DeVillers rounds out his guitar tone by playing through multiple amps at the same time, while Wilson pounds the hell out of his drums to propel things forward. Their debut album, Behaviour, and followup EP, Burning Window, offer one blistering and fun song after another, like the soundtrack for the best rowdy party ever.

Listen to the Burning Window EP

I recently had the chance to speak with Mad Ones during M for Montreal, hiding in the SAT under an industry cocktail party as a marching band (??!!) showed up and played for no discernible reason.

MP: How did you guys get together?

Phil: Well, we knew each other from other band we played in - my old band played with his band somtimes - and aside from that, he (Andrew) needed a drummer.

MP: What were those bands?

Phil: I was in a band called Clothes Make The Man and he was in The Exchanges.

Andrew: Rest in peace. (laughs)

MP: I enjoyed reading about the number of business cards from bass players you receive and throw away.

Phil: Yeah, a lot of people approach us and say things like, "Where's your bass player? You'd have the ticket if you just had a bass player."

Andrew: A lot of times it's bass players from other bands want people to know that they still have a value or place or something. Yeah, obviously we've thought about that - but so many people are doing cooler and cooler things with a two piece set. I always equate it to singer/songwriters - there are so many singer/songwriters out there who just go up there and do their thing, but no one is trying to compare them or say they have anything missing because they take the stage with an acoustic guitar.

Phil: It's becoming more and more common, and it's starting to be less and less talked about. When we first started playing people compared us to Death From Above even though we don't play any dance grooves.

MP: What kind of gear do you use? How have you adapted it to the duo format?

Phil: When we first started I pressured Andrew into gearing up on the guitar side.

Andrew: It's kind of evolving every time we record an album. There are little nuances for how we fill that out - like how you change your songwriting over time, little things about where to put a bridge. I like multiple small amps, sometimes because they're just easier to carry around. We're take two amps on tour right now - a guitar amp and a bass amp. I like splitting the signal to do different things - like a clean bass sound to the bass amp, and then the guitar through pedals and guitar amps. In my mind it fills out the sound a little more, like there are extra members of the band. I could just plug it into a laptop but I don't - we're not purists, but we like keeping it to amps and guitars.

MP: In terms of the songwriting style on the EP, there's this interesting spectrum of pop-y stuff and harder, more driving garage stuff.

Andrew: Yeah, a lot of people have said that. I guess it comes in waves, it depends on what we feel like writing and playing.

Phil: It can be a hard balance because some people want the harder stuff, and some people just want hooks. It's a mix of both I guess.

MP: One final question: if you could play a two-on-two NBA Jam game against any other guitar/drums duo in the world, who would it be?

Andrew: (laughs) I think we'd take The Inbreds, pretty hard.

Phil: I always played as Seattle. I just want to put that on record.

Andrew: Is this really happening?

MP: We'll see what we can do.

Andrew: I just want to go on record as saying, any place, any how, when The Inbreds are ready to take us on - any court in Toronto - we'll take them.

Watch the video for "Faces of Love"



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